Reference

Augmented Sixth Chords

There are at least three types of augmented sixths commonly named the Italian, French, and German augmented sixth chords. These chords are generally used to reach the dominant when performing a cadence in major and minor keys.

The Italian Sixth

The Italian Sixth chord is formed on the fourth degree. Most commonly, it is in first inversion. Its root is raised creating an augmented sixth interval with the bass:

Italian Sixth, A minor Italian Sixth, A major
Italian Sixth, A minor Italian Sixth, A major

Note: In the case of major keys, the third of the chord should also be altered so that it will have the same alterations as in the minor key. Therefore, the chord is said to have been borrowed from the minor key. This applies also to the other chords of the augmented sixth and to the Neapolitan Sixth.

The French Sixth

The French sixth is formed on the second degree. It is a seventh chord. Most commonly, it stands in its second inversion. Its third is raised in order to build an augmented sixth interval with the bass:

French Sixth, A Minor French Sixth, A Major
French Sixth, A Minor French Sixth, A Major

The German Sixth

The German sixth chord is built on the fourth degree. It is a seventh chord. It is most commonly in the first inversion. Its root is raised in order to create an augmented sixth interval with the bass:

German Sixth, A Minor
German Sixth, A Minor

To learn more about augmented sixth chords click here.

See C > Chord for related entries.

© 2011 J. Rodríguez Alvira

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13.11.05

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